India vs England: KL Rahul-Shreyas Iyer swap likely for Rajkot Test | Cricket

There will be another rejig in India’s middle-order. Shreyas Iyer is set to miss out of the Rajkot Test match starting February 15 while KL Rahul will be returning from injury. While players are on a week-long break with the series against England squared 1-1, there have been several rounds of telephonic deliberations among the national selectors with injury concerns and workload management dominating discussions. The official squad announcement is awaited with the team to re-assemble in the Gujarat town on Sunday evening.

India's Shreyas Iyer’s spot was up for discussion following his run of low scores in the series – 35, 13, 27, 29.(AFP)
India’s Shreyas Iyer’s spot was up for discussion following his run of low scores in the series – 35, 13, 27, 29.(AFP)

Iyer, it is learnt, complained of a stiff back and groin pain to the team management after the Visakhapatnam Test match. The Mumbai batter has had troubles with his back, with a lower back issue showing up during the 4th Test against Australia last year. This after he had to undergo a back surgery due to a slipped disc.

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Even otherwise, Iyer’s spot was up for discussion following his run of low scores in the series – 35, 13, 27, 29. This from a batter who was expected to play a key role given his proficiency against spin. The batter has had two poor years in Test cricket, averaging 21.60 in 3 matches this year and 13.16 from 4 Test matches in 2023.

Virat Kohli, it is learnt, is yet to make himself available from his personal break, which means his No 4 spot could be occupied by KL Rahul again. The Karnataka batter’s hamstring should have had enough time to heal after missing the 2nd Test match, with the extended break between the 2nd and 3rd Tests as agreed upon by the two cricket boards before the series. Rahul was at his fluent best during his 1st innings 86 at Hyderabad, before he holed out in the deep.

Kohli’s unavailability and Iyer’s injury may provide Rajat Patidar another opportunity. Even though Sarfaraz Khan, a prolific run-scorer on the domestic circuit, pushes for a debut, India, under Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma, have consistently given players a fair run. Patidar looked good at the crease during his 32 in the first innings at Visakhapatnam. However, he would be disappointed with his mode of dismissal, on 9 in the 2nd innings, where he tried to cut leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed off a delivery that was too close for comfort.

JADEJA RECOVERING WELL

The big bonus for the hosts would be the return of Ravindra Jadeja. One of the reasons for the delay in team announcement is known to be a final fitness check from the physios on the all-rounder’s injury status.

Originally, when Jadeja suffered the hamstring injury in the 1st Test, it was believed that his return could take a while. On Wednesday, the cricketer provided a fitness update, with a smiling pic, ‘Getting better’. Interestingly, the back-up left-arm spinner in the squad Saurabh Kumar had already been released for the current round of Ranji trophy to be played between February 9-12.

If Jadeja returns, the team management will have the difficult choice of dropping one of Kuldeep Yadav or Axar Patel from the playing eleven.

There have been discussions on how to manage Jasprit Bumrah’s workload for the rest of the series. But all indications are that they will stick to the original plan of giving the pace spearhead a break in the 4th Test at Ranchi with adequate gap before the 3rd and the 5th Test. Bumrah’s 15 wickets at a phenomenal average of 10.66 have been instrumental in keeping India in the contests so far. Mohammed Siraj who was given a break for the 2nd Test is set to return to action in Rajkot.

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